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by
Bridget Johnson

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April 3, 2013 - 6:55 am
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The Egyptian government started a Twitter battle with the U.S. over the embassy’s promotion of a Daily Show clip in which Jon Stewart defends his Egyptian counterpart and slams “viva hate” President Mohammed Morsi.

Bassem Youssef is host of El Bernameg (The Program), a news satire show in Egypt that regularly draws more than 30 million fans. The 39-year-old rose to fame after the Arab Spring, and is commonly called Egypt’s Jon Stewart for mocking newsmakers.

Last week, Youssef was hauled in on an arrest warrant for allegedly insulting Islam and Morsi and held for five hours of questioning.

“Democracy isn’t democracy if it only lasts up until someone makes fun of you,” Stewart said, defending his friend and playing some of Morsi’s insulting comments such as calling Jews “apes and pigs.”

The U.S. Embassy in Cairo tweeted a link of the video and the official Twitter feed of the Egyptian presidency fired back. Both have since been deleted, but not before we grabbed a screenshot:

Morsi’s office then tweeted a link to his Facebook page with a rambling press release “on the Questioning of the Comedian.”

The Presidency reaffirms that Egypt after the revolution has become a state of law with independent Judiciary. Hence, the Prosecution’s summoning of any Egyptian citizen regardless of his title or fame is the decision of the Prosecutor General, who operates independently from the presidency.

The current legal system allows for individual complaints to be brought to the Prosecutor General. All the current well-publicized claims were initiated by citizens rather than the Presidency. The Presidency has not filed any complaint against stand-up comedian Basem Yousef.

The Presidency reiterates the importance of freedom of expression and fully respects press freedom. All citizens are free to express themselves without the restrictions that prevailed in the era of the previous regime.

The first legislation passed under President Mohamed Morsy was concerned with the prevention of pre-trial detention of journalists. This demonstrates the determination of the President to encourage press and media to operate in a free environment.

We urge citizens to exercise their legal right to freedom of speech while respecting the rule of law.

“We are concerned that the public prosecutor appears to have questioned and then released on bail Bassam Youssef on charges of insulting Islam and President Morsi,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Monday. “This coupled with recent arrest warrants issued for other political activists is evidence of a disturbing trend of growing restrictions on the freedom of expression.”

The Muslim Brotherhood issued several tweets over the situation, including:

And from Youssef:

 

Bridget Johnson is a veteran journalist whose news articles and opinion columns have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe. Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor at The Hill, where she wrote The World from The Hill column on foreign policy. Previously she was an opinion writer and editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She is an NPR contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Politico and more, and has myriad television and radio credits as a commentator. Bridget is Washington Editor for PJ Media.

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